Her nose told Janine the dish was ready. She stuck her right hand in a quilted oven mitt and wadded a toile dishtowel for her left, then opened the oven with steely groans. Twin ramekins bubbled contentedly in the glow of the heating elements, resting on a scarred and well-loved cookie tray. She carefully extracted the tray, set it on the stove, kneed the oven partially closed and shut it off. It would continue to warm the kitchen pleasantly, this muzzy November night.
Slipping one ramekin onto a plate, Janine took up a small spoon and a napkin, then danced around the corner, through the dining room, to where the elaborate Victorian dollhouse stood prominently in the living room. She grinned to feel the dense pile carpet crush under her bare feet. Slowly she raised one shiny shin to break the light beam around the model house. Through the tiny windows she could see the cheery yellow lighting momentarily dim to a warmer nectarine, could hear the tiny speakers inside resonate with a soothing AUM-MM-mm…
When the white LED porch light blinked green, she unlocked the latches on the side wall and pulled the facade open, halving the Victorian house neatly as if for an architectural diagram. There he was, in his little study, seated at a meticulously crafted escritoire, still holding the snipped-off tip of a microfine pen. Shaun’s tiny face turned up to her and grinned smartly: Janine marveled at how, after all this time, that expression still shot a thrill throughout her entire body, an effect undiminished from the first moment she spotted him.
“I made you something,” she said softly.
“I wrote you something,” he called up to her.
She screwed up her grin, trying not to cry. “Why don’t you read it to me over French onion soup?” Behind the dollhouse, the cream sheers glowed with flickering yellow and orange.
Shaun’s grin widened, and he hopped onto her plate with his miniature blank book. She settled carefully on the couch, nestling the round bottom he loved so much in the firm cushions. Janine reclined, situating her head comfortably in a pile of throw pillows, resting the plate upon her belly; he picked his way off the smooth plate and up her black Cuddl Duds top, perching himself upon her right breast. He ran one tiny hand over the microfiber fabric, his fine face beaming up at her like a candle. She licked her upper lip, raising one eyebrow, and scooped out a titch of molten cheese to cool for him.
When he’d had his fill—almost immediately—he opened his book. It was a cheap prop in a pack of eight from the craft store, but they were both stunned to discover how much work actually went into it: the binding was shit, but the paper quality was not bad at all, and his minuscule script could fit quite a lot of sentences on the little pages. He’d feverishly set to filling these empty books up from the moment she presented them to him.
Not only did it give Shaun something to do, he took great pride in developing his writing, and he was as eager to show off his work to her as she was to hear it. He lay now on his front, his body draped to hug the curve of her breast, and turned to the page he wanted.
“Now that she has me, where should I wander?
Now that she owns me, why should I stray?
When her soft fingers greet every day
And with each day I only grow fonder…”
With well-learned sensitivity she stroked his tiny back, from his shoulders to his butt, trailing her finger down this thigh or that. His little clothes tugged beneath her fingertip until it dried enough to run over him smoothly. Regardless, he never paused in his recitation. Janine closed her eyes and focused on his voice, the awkward, embarrassing rhymes, the unquestionable adoration in each line. He was exploring sonnets currently: his passion for learning and personal development was charming.
Outside, a fire truck and EMT chased away a flatbed of angry rednecks. Celebratory, but angry: the neighbors hadn’t taken down their election signs, and now they paid for their dissent. The rednecks roared off, firing Parthian shots at the emergency vehicles that strove to put out two houses across the street and rescue their occupants. A glass bottle shattered on the street or the sidewalk, and mocking laughter receded into the night. Get used to it, they’d screamed. This is how it is now.
A bead of saline squeezed from between her lids, but she kept her breathing steady so he’d keep reading.